Innovating a Better Battery Pack for EVs

Oregon BEST Funding Could Lead to Cheaper, Longer-Life EV Batteries

Funding from Oregon BEST is helping electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Arcimoto, Inc. partner with the Energy Storage Laboratory at Oregon Tech's Wilsonville, Ore. campus to innovate a new EV battery pack design that could lead to longer battery life and less expensive battery packs for a wide range of applications.

One of the ongoing challenges for the EV industry is managing and dissipating the heat generated by thousands of tightly packed battery cells. Because chemical reactions in the cells are not 100 percent efficient, a certain amount of heat is generated during overcharge. Dissipating this heat out of the battery pack is important, especially when hot spots occur within the pack that can shorten overall battery life.

The goal of the Oregon BEST-funded project is to develop and test a new pack design that will more efficiently dissipate heat, eliminate hot spots, ensure more consistent contacts to each cell and ultimately enable better prediction of battery life.

Arcimoto, the Eugene, Ore. maker of three-wheeled electric vehicles, approached Oregon Tech because of the school's expertise in energy storage and the capability of its Energy Storage Lab, directed by professor Slobodan Petrovic.

"Arcimoto came to us wanting to design a battery pack where heat generation and the contact to each cell are both better controlled, which will lead to lower cost as well as longer battery life," Petrovic said. "There has previously been very little precise testing of the behavior of these batteries in packs to gain insights into the internal process and how that is affected by the pack design. We have the ability to do all of this here at Oregon Tech."

The $150,000 from Oregon BEST is purchasing specialized equipment for the Energy Storage Lab that will be used to attain better consistency of battery cell contacts within a pack. The project is also funding a graduate student in Oregon Tech's new Renewable Energy Engineering Master's Program who is using other test equipment in the lab to analyze heat generation, chemical activity and thermal dissipation.

Fabrication of the new battery pack prototypes will be done by another Oregon company, Cascade Systems Technology of Hillsboro.

"This project pairs an innovative Oregon EV company with a strong university capability and has the potential to help lower the cost of EV batteries and lead to licensing of a new design," said David Kenney, President and Executive Director of Oregon BEST. "We hope this effort will help Arcimoto achieve a competitive position in the market for its own EVs and enable the company to license the new pack design for use in other EV applications such as e-bikes, micro EVs and special purpose EVs like small electric buses."

Arcimoto CEO Mark Frohnmayer said his company's new battery pack design could reduce the cost of EV batteries, the most expensive single item on an electric vehicle.

"Current electric vehicle battery system designs are expensive, both because of the cost of the cells and the cost of the packaging components, so using least-cost cells and driving the cost out of the pack architecture will help enable us to deliver an electric vehicle at a competitive price," Frohnmayer said. “In addition to helping Arcimoto develop a cost-competitive, compelling ride, the funding will advance our plans to license this technology for a wide range of electric vehicles, from bicycles to buses.”

Frohnmayer added that the funding comes at a crucial time for the company. "The money is allowing us to take our idea from the lab bench and prove it will work in the real world, bridging the gap between concept and revenue," he said. "Although the devil is in the details, we have some early data that suggests this will be a big win."

A 2013 report by researchers at Portland State University found that Oregon's electric vehicle cluster has created more than 1,500 jobs and sparked more than $266 million in economic activity. The report, commissioned by the state-funded industry support group Drive Oregon, also found that the industry has paid $11.9 million in state and local taxes and $20.8 million in federal taxes.

About Oregon BEST http://oregonbest.org
Oregon BEST is the nexus for clean technology innovation, building capability, convening collaborations, and accelerating solutions to environmental challenges that deliver prosperity in all corners of Oregon. Oregon BEST brings together Oregon’s significant R&D strengths in clean technology to support the commercialization of new products and services. Since establishment in 2007, Oregon BEST’s 225-plus Member Faculty have generated more than $100 million in research revenue from federal, industry and foundation sources to Oregon. At its four partner universities (Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, and University of Oregon), Oregon BEST has established a network of seven shared-user research facilities. Oregon BEST Commercialization Funding is awarded to collaborations between entrepreneurs and Oregon BEST member faculty at partner universities.

About Arcimoto http://arcimoto.com
Arcimoto, Inc. is an Oregon-based clean technology company whose mission is to help catalyze the shift to a sustainable transportation system. Arcimoto’s first product, the SRK, is an all-electric three-wheeled vehicle that blends the efficiency and thrill of the motorcycle with the practical daily utility of a naturally stable automotive platform.

About Oregon Tech http://oit.edu
Founded in Klamath Falls, Ore. in 1947, the Oregon Institute of Technology is one of seven universities in the Oregon University System, and the only public institute of technology in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech provides degree programs in engineering and health technologies, management, communications and applied sciences that prepare students to be effective participants in their professional, public and international communities through hands-on learning. Oregon Tech has a full-service, residential campus in Klamath Falls and an urban campus in Wilsonville, Ore.. The university also has sites in Beaverton, Salem and La Grande, Ore. and in Seattle, Wash., as well as online degree offerings. Visit www.oit.edu to learn more about Oregon Institute of Technology.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gregg Kleiner, 541-740-9654
SOURCES: David Kenney, Oregon BEST, 503-725-9849, david.kenney@oregonbest.org; Mark Frohnmayer, President, Arcimoto, 541-915-4973, mark@arcimoto.com; Slobodan Petrovic, Oregon Tech, 503-821-1256, slobodan.petrovic@oit.edu